What is co-location?
Statutory guidance on child sexual exploitation recommends ‘an inter-agency approach’, due to the complexity of the issues and the need for agencies to work closely together and share information [Dept for Children, Schools and Families, 2009]. This means police, social care, education, health and voluntary sectors working together – often within the same physical office space, and with shared access to agency information systems and databases.
Pace believes co-location requires two crucial elements:
- effective liaison between statutory, voluntary and criminal justice agencies.
- active involvement of families affected by child sexual exploitation.
A University of Salford evaluation of one co-located multi-agency team defines good working practise as:
- an inclusive team culture, respecting the varied contributions of members of different agencies and professions
- a commitment to shared values and team decision-making
- innovative and collectively agreed formats for sharing information and recording data
It defined the role of Pace in co-located teams as:
- to provide a perspective which acknowledges the crucial role of parents in child safeguarding.
[Jenkins & Kelly, 2011]
Why parents’ voices?
Parents of sexually exploited children may sometimes be judged by agencies as having ‘failed’ to protect their children from the abuse. However, the grooming process normally requires that the child is emotionally detached from parents by the abuser, in order for the exploitation to take place. Pace’s role within co-located multi-agency teams is to shift the balance away from a possible tendency to see child sexual exploitation as a product of family dysfunction [Scott & Skidmore, 2006]. While some families may be unwilling to protect their child from sexual exploitation, others are simply unable to do so, because parental authority and attachment has been actively usurped by the abuser.
Pace’s contribution within a co-located multi-agency format means that parents can be supported in rebuilding their relationship with their child. Rebuilding the family relationships then contributes to the prevention, protection and prosecution of child sexual exploitation.
‘Co-location enables the sum of different parts to come together and make a bigger whole. When frontline professionals tackling child sexual exploitation are housed under one roof, and information sharing protocols have been worked out, it enables a team to act together and bring about a more holistic approach to a complex issue.’ Gill Gibbons, Pace CEO